A rude awakening for tech giants and there’s more to come
By Judd Gregg
The European Union has assessed a major fine against Google.
In addition, the leaders of the European Union want to assess a large tax on the revenues of Amazon, Facebook and Google.
France wants to tax all the social media platforms that are being used by their citizens, whether they have a physical presence in France or not.
All these initiatives, which are aimed at raiding the coffers of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google — widely known as the FAANG group — have been proffered by the European political elite which is heavily dominated by the left.
It is also just the beginning.
When liberal politicians — who are motivated by the need to gather funds through taxes in order to support their constituencies — see an untapped source of revenue, they want to attack it.
This is especially true when the source is both vulnerable and naïve, politically speaking.
And now comes Washington.
Since Facebook, Amazon and Google have such total dominance of their markets, it is likely they will soon be in the crosshairs of Washington.
There is some irony in all the undesired interest that these entrepreneurial phenomena are receiving.
They have evolved in the vacuum called Silicon Valley. It is a place where the only politics that are practiced or countenanced are those of political correctness — the straitjacket favored by the left.
The creators and employees of these huge entities are largely oblivious to, or dismissive of, those beyond the boundaries of their Eden.
Politicians, they feel, are supposed to come to them — not the other way around.
They have not deigned to be involved in politics, except to lecture at politicians from a stance of superiority. One of the effects of this isolation is that followers of FAANG have a special disdain for conservatives.
Now, they are being unceremoniously thrust into the messy world of real politics. It is not going well for them.
The left, which FAANG embraces so earnestly, is about to teach those companies a lesson on the politics of Europe.
They blame the successful for the difficulties that everyday people are experiencing in their lives, arguing that they are not adequately sharing their wealth.
Their suggested solution is to tax that success at a punitive rate.
The European liberals’ desire to identify with the new economy of this digital time is easily overridden by the opportunity to dig into the money on the FAANG balance sheets.
When all is said and done, FAANG is being attacked by a European left that the tech giants thought was simpatico with them.
In Washington, where the next round is about to begin, the outlook for FAANG is also gloomy.
Because of FAANG’s traditionally supercilious approach to politics, it has few friends on the political landscape of America, at least with the exceptions of the coasts.
The heartland, where FAANG is weakest, is also the habitat of conservatives. And conservatives typically dislike largeness, whether in governments or in corporations. That tradition goes back at least as far as President Theodore Roosevelt, the trust buster.
Conservatives now control the government of the United States. This is the same government that governs FAANG.
One suspects this is coming as a surprise to the leadership of the FAANG group, which may have believed they were beyond government and were essentially their own nation.
FAANG is about to find out that the myopia which costs so much in Europe may be even more expensive, and possibly more destructive, in Washington.
It has no real friends there now. It can bring no constituency to bear.
In Washington, there is a saying that if you want a friend, get a dog. FAANG has few dogs in this Washington.
The risk of payback, always a force in real politics, is considerable given the way FAANG companies have positioned themselves politically.
However, conservatives may want to think about what to do next.
It is true that a little retribution for the arrogant, self-indulgent and myopic leadership of FAANG in their treatment of conservatives might be enjoyable.
But would it be useful?
These organizations are key components in the engine of American economic resurgence.
They will be the major forces in the world’s economy in a digital age that is only just beginning.
We do not want them to be shackled in this undertaking by governments intent on undermining their impact. We want this American dominance.
Their expansion in the world’s marketplace injects tremendous energy into our nation’s economy.
Conservatives in Washington should not put them through the ringer by challenging their size and influence.
Instead, conservatives should use counter-measures against European nations if the Europeans continue to gratuitously threaten American companies’ opportunity to grow. This also applies to China.
Conservatives do not need, nor will they ever get, political support or understanding from the likes of FAANG.
What they do need is for FAANG, and hopefully those companies’ many successors, to continue to grow in their international dominance.
Doing so will benefit America, our economy and our people.
Judd Gregg is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.